News: Climate Change Education in Singapore – Perception and Practices

Research team update

24/08/2011 16:51

To date the work of this project has been contributed by the following in addition to those of the prinicpal investigator, Dr. Chang Chew Hung:

1. Dr. Zhai Junqing 

2. Mr. Pei Weijie

I would like to thank these two outstanding individuals for being on the team. I will post updates accordingly.

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Call for participation

06/06/2011 13:28

 Any teachers or students interested in this project can email me, please.

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Preliminary literature review

01/06/2011 13:27

 A preliminary literature review of informal education for CCE will be published online in the coming weeks.

>>

Project start

05/01/2011 13:26

 The project started on 30 April 2011. 

>>

Climate Change Education in Singapore – Perception and Practices

Executive Summary

Set against increasing environmental concern around the world, the question arises as to how effective the role of education in mitigating the impacts of climate change is. In particular, there is a need to examine the roles of formal and informal education in climate change education (CCE), especially within Singapore’s education system where there is a renewed emphasis on 21st century learners’ skills and values. Issues of adaptation and mitigation of climate change have now come to the forefront of public concern with the leadership in Singapore discussing them at different local and international forums. One key success factor for effective climate change adaption and mitigation must be an effective approach to climate change education. Currently, knowledge about climate change causes and impacts are sporadically littered in some topics within some school curricula subjects. Given the real and imminent threat that climate change has posed to the global community, education for climate change becomes an important pathway to close the gaps between knowledge and actual actions. However, little research exists to ascertain the state of climate change education in Singapore. There is a need to understand the issue in terms of its place in curriculum, instruction and assessment, in relation to different stakeholders such as teachers, curriculum planners, students and parents, and at different levels. How knowledge, skills and values about climate change causes, impacts, adaptation and mitigation are learnt in schools today provide important information for advancing education for climate change tomorrow. This study seeks to establish baseline information that will shape recommendations on how climate change can play a more focal role within school curriculum.

 

Importance of Study

Background of Mitigating and adapting to Climate Change in Singapore

The Singapore Green Plan is a State policy that addresses the issue of climate change. The Singapore Green Plan 2012 or SGP 2012 was crafted in 2002 and then revised in 2006. For this discussion, the Singapore Green Plan 2012 (2002 and 2006 editions) will be referred to synonymously.

The SGP 2012 addresses several issues and sets targets for each of them as summarized in Error! Reference source not found.. The Plan addresses the issue of climate change by mapping out strategies to promote the use of clean energy, energy efficiency and reduction of CO2 emissions in the various sectors, all in terms of mitigating climate change. A more detailed report on this is addressed in the Singapore’s National Climate Change Strategy, 2008 (2008).

 

Singapore was a signatory to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UN FCCC) in 1992 but it was not until 2006 that Singapore became the 168th country to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. For a long time Singapore has been ambivalent on the issue of climate change and her obligation to reduce greenhouse gases. Singapore’s policy of economic growth first has relegated issues of climate change to one of lesser importance (Hamilton-Hart, 2006). However, in 2006 Singapore finally made its stand clear in light of scientific evidence of climate change and global warming. The 2006 Singapore Green Plan describes climate change as “now looked upon as one of the most pressing environmental challenges of the global community” and “Singapore intends to engage in the ongoing international debate on how to manage greenhouse gas emissions in a manner that is not harmful to economic growth.” (MEWR, 2006).

 

A major study was commissioned by the government to look into how global warming and climate change will impact Singapore, especially the possible long term effects. The study was conducted by NUS’s Tropical marine Science Institute and it warns of impending temperature and sea level rise (Gunasingham, 2010). However, as early as 1992 Wong (1992) had studied the possible impact of sea-level rise on the coast, reservoirs and drainage of Singapore. The government also concedes that the single most obvious impact that climate change will bring will be in terms of sea level rise (Hussain, 2007) and (Teh, 2008). In recognizing the importance of climate change and its impact on Singapore, the Singapore’s National Climate Change Strategy report has been produced in Feb 2008 (2008). This report presents Singapore’s current and future efforts to address climate change in vulnerability and adaptation, as well as mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions (Singapore’s National Climate Change Strategies, 2008).

While cities like Singapore, might have implemented planning norms as well as policies that are aimed at addressing rapid urbanization, the city population has not been fully participatory and efforts have been largely state-driven and state-led. In other words, citizens in Singapore have not necessarily been inculcated behavioural norms that are important in responding to and acting on their understanding of impending climate change. These are norms concerned about the reduction of consumption of materials and energy as well as the simplification of urban lifestyles to achieve such a goal. The importance of addressing such issues through education of the young cannot be overemphasized.

Literature Review

Conceptualisng Climate Change Education

In defining climate change education (CCE), several other environmental education (EE) concepts must be discussed and the difference between these disambiguated. Education for sustainable development (ESD) is highly debated and contested and it means different things to different people depending on their orientations and concerns (Sauve, 2002), (Bonnett, 2002) and (Fien, Heck, & Ferreira, 1997). Even the meanings of sustainable development and sustainability remain a nebulous concept that is variously defined, debated and deconstructed (Higgit, 2006).

“The potential of education is enormous…Education not only informs people, it can change them. As a means for personal enlightenment and for cultural renewal, education is not only central to sustainable development, it is humanity’s best hope and most effective means in the quest to achieve sustainable development” (UNESCO, 1997). Singapore as a small nation but economically significant and highly exposed to international trade. As such, it is highly sensitive to the challenges it faces to remain competitive. While in principle the policy of the government towards the environment and ESD is very much in line with the statements from the world bodies, it’s interpretation and translation in the national context is often determined by national priorities, challenges, interests and constraints.

Relationship between Education for Sustainable Development and Climate Change Education.

ESD is not CCE. Indeed, one can argue that successful adaptation and mitigation of climate change issues is a necessary condition for sustainable development (SD), the relationship between ESD and CCE is not simple. Most of the issues dealt with in ESD, SD, CCE and CC are captured in the Singapore Green Plan 2012 (2002) and its revised (2006) edition, and Singapore’s National Climate Change Strategies, 2008. These are documents that spelt out what the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources saw as the challenges Singapore will face from now till 2012 as well as their mitigation efforts.

However, even within the Singapore Green Plan 2012, the issue of education is inferred more in the informal areas, little mention is made of the need to incorporate in the school curricula such issues. It is left to the Ministry of Education to deliberate and consider how much to incorporate those sustainable development and climate change issues into the curricula at all levels of education. The National Cliamte Change Secretariat, which comes under the Prime Minister’s Office oversees climate change policy issues (Ramesh, 2010). However, the Minsitry of Education does not have a representative on this committee.

The documents by the MEWR also indicate the desire to see greater awareness of these issues through participation in co-curricular activities of school children in projects organized by MEWR and non-governmental organizations. If the level of awareness and understanding of these issues is to be increased, then the education system must necessarily work together with MEWR to ensure that these objectives are met. This is not the case at the moment, where issues regarding SD and CC are deliberated and decided by committee appointed by the Ministry of Education to select topics and themes to be included in the syllabuses at the primary, secondary and junior college levels of education. Having said the above, while SD has been in public and education discourse for some time, discourse on CCE is very recent phenomenon and therefore there is a need for greater deliberations before some semblance of CCE could be finalized, incorporated and implemented in the curriculum.

Going by past experience this understanding of SD and CC is not widespread and is reflected in a survey conducted by the media. For example, the level of awareness, understanding and the role of the public in mitigating climate change is limited. From a survey reported in the media 50% of the respondents in Singapore know nothing about climate change or global warming (Mehlsen, 2009). To address this The National Environmental Agency together with the Singapore Environmental Council rolled out a public awareness program in April 06. Targeted at households and motorists, the program aimed to raise awareness of the link between climate change and energy conservation.


Research Question

As indicated earlier much of the discourse on SD is connected with EE and this is well reflected in the curriculum in schools in Singapore. However, CCE is a new concept and given the interconnectedness of the issues and challenges Singapore as a small island state encounters it would not be wrong to conclude that they will be dealt with within the EE as conceptualised currently.

There is a need for Singapore to re-examine in a more focused way the trend towards greater understanding of climate change education. The Ministry of Education through its Curriculum Planning and Development Division (CPDD) has various committees to revise and refine its curricula in the various subjects such as geography, social studies, humanities and the above issues reside in these subjects. A deliberate effort needs to be made to ensure that climate change education be given greater emphasis, not just under the broad theme of environmental education.

Hence this study seeks to ask the question of “What is the state of climate change education in Singapore?”. In turn, the question seeks to understand the following:

1. What is the state of climate change education for the general public?
2. What is the state of climate change education in the formal school curricula, in terms of


a. Curriculum
b. Instruction
c. Assessment

 

 

Potential Appplication

The results from this study will provide an information base that will inform practices in education for climate change in a few ways. Firstly, the results wil inform policy makers on the gaps in CCE. Recommendations can be made from the findings to determine strategies to close these gaps.

Secondly, the study will allow a conceptualisation of CCE for the purposes of curriculum planning. Understanding how CCE is situated within the curriculum at present will help in the design of a more responsive and effective curriculum for CCE. Classroom approaches may also developed from an understanding of this conceptualisation, as selection of pedagogies must correspond to the Pedagogical Content Knowledge for CCE. Assessment for CCE can also be recommended

Finally, the findings from this study will also help inform the national climate change strategy as CCE is a very important adaptation and mitigation strategy for climate change.


Conclusion

It is important to educate learners about the knowledge, skills and values about climate change causes, impacts, adaptation and mitigation, in preparing for learners of the 21st century. To this end, CCE in curriculum, instruction and assessment, in relation to teachers, curriculum planners, students and parents need to be understood. In considering the impending hazards that climate change might bring, CCE is the only way to link knowledge to actual actions that will result in behaviours that will mitigate the impact of climate change.

 

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